Daily Archives: February 8, 2019

Changing of the (old) guard

Well, now.  This is interesting.

Gov. Brian Kemp will soon have a chance to appoint supporters to dozens of additional posts – including a trio of coveted Board of Regents spots – after Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan challenged his predecessor’s lame-duck board appointments.

Duncan asserted last week that 64 board appointments made by Gov. Nathan Deal between Nov. 17 and his final day in office on Jan. 14 were not properly submitted. The fallout crystallized on Thursday when Kemp put forth a new list of names that exclude many of Deal’s appointments.

Among those not on the list were three Board of Regents members that Deal reappointed a week before he left office: Dean Alford, Don Leebern Jr. and Richard Tucker. A spot on the 19-member board is one of the plum appointments in state government…

But the highest-profile among the three is Leebern, who was first appointed to the board in 1991 and played a central part in legendary feuds between University of Georgia administrators and athletics officials in the early 2000s.

Vince Dooley’s smile just got a little brighter.  Also, don’t forget that politics, like nature, abhors a vacuum.

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Filed under Georgia Football, Political Wankery

Today, in roster management

Dawgs247 is reporting that Marshall Long is expected to take a medical disqualification.

14 Comments

Filed under Georgia Football

Gap is the new cannon shot.

I can’t help but take one last trip to that SDS piece on how Florida “closed the gap” on Georgia with its ninth-ranked 2019 recruiting class.  Here’s the author’s rationale for the language:

Screenshot_2019-02-08 How Florida closed the gap on Georgia and Alabama with a strong Signing Day finish

It’s stuff like this that gives statistical analysis a bad rep.  An 80 percent blue chip rate is almost impossible to improve upon, certainly so year after year.  So, yeah, if you’re looking up from 41 to 58 percent, the horizon looks closer.  By that same reasoning, a ranking gap framed on one end by number one Alabama will shrink when Florida improves because you can’t go any higher than first.  Context matters, in other words.

Skip the math for a sec, though.  The bigger fallacy is pretending that recruiting gaps are things that can be dramatically overcome in a year.  There are two reasons for that.  First, it’s only one year.  At any given time, rosters are built on four/five years of recruiting.  In the SEC East, this is the country where Florida has to gain ground.

Georgia’s five-star lead over the rest of the East is 15-4 since Smart has gotten it rolling. This type of recruiting dominance is slightly different from Alabama when you compare the Tide to the SEC West. Alabama never lapped its division this way. Bama’s best three-year stretch since Texas A&M joined the league was from 2013-2015 when they signed 18 five stars. The rest of the West signed 24. That obviously includes teams like LSU and Auburn.

Alabama has dominated the West on the field even though the West has at least kept within range as far as recruiting goes with those strong recruiters. But what do you think the Dawgs are gonna do with their advantage?

Georgia’s just vacuuming up Dudes year after year compared to its division and we’ve thrown in a couple direct rivals (Georgia Tech and Auburn) just to show that.

Blue-chip counts of Georgia vs. rivals (SEC East and otherwise)

School Three-year blue-chip count 2017 2018 2019
Alabama 64 24 15 25
Georgia 62 20 22 20
Florida 41 11 13 17
Auburn 40 11 15 14
Tennessee 24 5 8 11
South Carolina 21 6 9 6
Kentucky 11 5 3 3
Georgia Tech 4 1 2 1
Missouri 4 1 0 3
Vanderbilt 3 0 3 0

And if you’re wondering, here were Georgia’s tallies for the four years before Smart had his first non-transitional recruiting class.

2016: 14
2015: 14
2014: 13
2013: 15

Smart’s added an entire extra class’ worth of blue-chips over the course of the last three years to what was already strong recruiting. That’s a whole extra group of top athletes who won’t be playing for teams trying to beat Georgia.

The last two paragraphs are stunning.  The numbers show Mark Richt was a good recruiter by SEC East standards.  It’s just that Kirby has taken Georgia’s recruiting to an entirely different level from every other program in the division.  But I digress.

That is an enormous talent differential between Florida and Georgia.  In terms of raw numbers of blue chips, instead of Blackmon’s program percentage levels, you can see that with this last signing class, Smart actually increased the spread against Mullen.  That isn’t how you close a gap.  Especially one that was already +18 from the previous two classes.

There’s another significant factor that the SDS analysis glosses over.  Here’s something that Jake Rowe noted about Georgia’s 2019 class:

It was extremely important that the Bulldogs sign a full crop of talented players and that they get guys to fill specific needs. It did exactly what it had to do. [Emphasis added.]

As I noted yesterday, the most impressive thing about yesterday’s results were that Smart neatly pivoted after the early signing date to make sure he filled a hole on the roster at receiver that resulted from the departures of key players.  When you’ve built your roster over three or four years and stacked the talent as Smart has done, it’s easier to maneuver like that.

Compare that with what David Wunderlich says about Florida in a piece that’s complimentary about Mullen’s 2019 class.

So while Mullen is getting the program back up where it needs to be while focusing on the details, the next step is to end up with a balanced roster. I don’t just mean in numbers at each position but also age-wise from freshmen to seniors..

The goal is to get to a place of consistency in numbers across classes: one quarterback per year, one running back, two or three receivers, three to five offensive linemen, etc.

That’s never going to be possible indefinitely because of unplanned attrition, but even acknowledging that reality, you don’t want to be in a place where you’re having to go heavy on multiple positions a year like offensive line and linebacker in 2019 and wide receiver, defensive tackle, and maybe safety in 2020. Being forced to take a lot at one place in one year will at best set a roster time bomb for four years in the future at at worst will have a program load up on ineffective players.

David notes roster time bombs at several positions:  receiver, defensive tackle and safety.  Even if you know what you’re doing — and you can count me in the camp who believes Mullen does — that you’re having to scramble to fill holes at offensive line and linebacker even at the risk of creating future imbalances at other positions is a sign that you have a roster that doesn’t match up with Georgia’s.

None of this is to say that Mullen won’t succeed eventually in reaching a stable point with a talented roster.  But that’s not 2019.

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Filed under Gators, Gators..., Georgia Football, Recruiting

Gettin’ there

From that Hall/Godfrey take on Alabama’s dominance under Saban:

Even Georgia — the school who has gone furthest in trying to mirror Alabama’s blueprint — has come up short so far. The Bulldogs hired longtime Alabama assistant Kirby Smart, who recruited Georgia’s best classes ever, built a Saban-style defense in Athens, and brought some of Saban’s control-freak tendencies over with him. For instance: Smart took part in discussions with lawmakers in Atlanta to delay responses to open records requests about the football program at one point, a move so extreme Nick Saban has never even tried it.

Georgia made the playoff championship game in Smart’s second year in Athens. The Bulldogs lost in OT after leading for almost all of the game. The two teams met again in the SEC Championship, and Georgia lost again at the end of the game, this time only surrendering a lead or a tie when Jalen Hurts scored a touchdown with one minute and four seconds on the clock. Even at full throttle, they’re still one minute and four seconds behind the University of Alabama in the race to be college football’s best.

There’s no way to erase that minute and four seconds, of course.  As far as the future goes, though, Bill Connelly hints in his four-year recruiting study that Georgia may be getting very close to leveling the playing field.

Still, something interesting stands out right up top: while Alabama’s 2019 class was absurd and historic, head coach Nick Saban has basically only tied Georgia’s Kirby Smart in terms of recruiting since Smart, Saban’s former defensive coordinator, moved to Athens. Don’t let the Dawgs’ poor 2018 finish distract you from how loaded this team is going to be moving forward.

Whoa, Nellie.

‘Bama and Georgia are essentially tied in Bill’s weighted four-year average at 99.3%.  To give you some context, at 96.9%, third place LSU is closer to number twelve Michigan than it is to either the Tide or the Dawgs.  That’s recruiting dominance and Alabama is no longer alone.

Now, all Kirby’s got to do is…

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Filed under Georgia Football, Recruiting, Stats Geek!

“Athletes are a little different, but they are still bringing value.”

I don’t this has a shot at passage, but if it somehow were to become law… well, let’s just say one benefit of amateurism for the NCAA is that it’s got plenty of money left over to pay its lawyers.

*************************************************************************

UPDATE:  This is what happens when you let things fester, instead of being proactive about potential issues that could bite you in the ass if left unmanaged.

More than seven months after Jordan McNair’s death, Maryland state lawmakers have proposed a bill that would upend the college athletics model across the state and give athletes the right to unionize and collectively bargain over issues related to health and safety, as well as compensation.

Del. Brooke E. Lierman (D-Baltimore) proposed the measure this week and said recent events on college campuses have highlighted a growing need for an independent advocate who can work on behalf of athletes. Lierman cited McNair, the 19-year old Maryland football player who collapsed after suffering exertional heatstroke at a conditioning workout in May, and the hundreds of young Michigan State athletes who suffered sexual abuse at the hands of Larry Nassar.

“There’s an inherently unequal playing field between student-athletes and the universities that they go to,” Lierman said. “There’s so much money involved, which has made it much more weighted against students who are coming to school on scholarships and playing, especially the revenue-producing sports. There needs to be a conversation and probably legislation to correct the imbalance of power that exists right now.”

The bill would cover all of the universities in Maryland that field athletic teams and highlights four primary areas that would be open to collective bargaining: scholarship terms, insurance benefits, use of an athlete’s image or likeness and the establishment of an independent advocate to work on behalf of athletes. The proposal challenges the NCAA’s lucrative and time-honored model of amateurism that governs college athletics.

How many fronts can the NCAA fight on at one time?

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Filed under It's Just Bidness, Political Wankery, The NCAA

A model approach

Screenshot_2019-02-08 Why Alabama’s dynasty will never really be over

This here’s a helluva piece about what makes Alabama tick under Nick Saban by SBN’s Spencer Hall and Steven Godfrey.  We’ve pondered the melding of the Georgia Way and the Process ever since Kirby Smart was hired.  Read this and tell me if you can see Butts-Mehre doing a full buy in.

This is not a perfect measure, but it is a start. To get an idea of how big football is as a financial entity relative to the rest of the university, I took the overall expenditures for the university for the most recent available fiscal year. Then I took the claimed football program expenditures, and compared the football expenditures as a percentage of total university spending.

There are a lot of caveats and clarifications to be made here. The money football programs spend does not necessarily come from the university, and could and does come from a lot of other sources: donations from alumni; ticket sales; TV contract money; merchandise and licensing, etc. That money isn’t even necessarily counted as university expenditures sometimes due to athletics and booster organizations being housed under tax-exempt non-profit 501(c)3 organizations.

The chief purpose of the comparison is to paint some picture of how relatively huge or small a program is compared to the university’s other reasons for being a university. It’s not science, but it is a visualization of how much of the overall economy at a school is dominated by football.

The size of a university has a bit to do with some of the discrepancies here. Ohio State and Texas, for instance, are both huge state schools with large budgets. Even an extravagantly funded football program would be a small piece of the overall financial picture at a behemoth like either of these.

Yet even compared to universities of its size, Alabama’s comparison is staggering. Florida State, another football-forward state school in the same region with just a slightly larger budget, spends what would be 3.48 percent of its total university expenses on football. Clemson and Oklahoma — both around the same size on the spreadsheet — spend around 4 percent each on football. Auburn, Alabama’s closest rival and another school of comparable financial scale, ups the ante by spending what would be about 5 percent of total expenses.

It’s widely known that Alabama spends the most annually on football. In 2017, the Crimson Tide spent $62.3 million on football alone, the highest budget in the sport. What’s new here is seeing that even on a scale relative to other schools its size, Alabama spends disproportionate amounts of cash on football.

As a percentage of total university expenses, Alabama’s football budget would equal 7.18 percent of overall spending, the highest in the 11-team sample here. That is a staggering sum given what other schools spend — even other schools like Clemson and Oklahoma, where football is openly and rabidly supported by the administration and community.

Following the money — even through a pretty simple comparison like this — shows how committed the university is to football. How committed are they? By the relative numbers, Alabama is more committed financially than any other team in the nation.

For me, the somewhat surprising answer to that question is maybe.  It depends on how much they can wring out of the donors.  That’s a part of the puzzle where ‘Bama has also been ahead of Georgia.

To understand how important football is to the university in 2019, consider what the university did in the 2000s just to get here. Most observers around the state will tell you that the big change happened with the arrival of one very important person not named Nick Saban: Dr. Robert Witt, who became President of the University of Alabama-Tuscaloosa in 2003.

Witt became the instrument of many boosters who believed the University had fallen behind as an academic institution and as an athletics program. According to a high-ranking source at UAB, “Some of the prominent alumni, Paul Jr. being among them, got very concerned that Alabama was becoming a very average school and a very average program.”

The two — the football program and school — were an inseparable brand. Rather than fight that, Alabama embraced it, mostly because they had no choice. Football was woven into the network of people who controlled the University of Alabama, and the brand was arguably as valuable as any other asset the University had.

That same UAB source says the message became clear. “Together they decided that Tuscaloosa was, and always had been, honestly, the crown jewel of the university system and that they needed to get that in order.”

The crown jewel of the university’s public face was football, and to reboot the school’s image and fatten enrollment, football had to be a visible, successful asset. And in the early to mid-2000s, Alabama football was visibly and painfully unsuccessful. Alabama’s facilities were average, their teams inconsistent, and their coaches a source of boredom at best (see: Mike Shula), and scandal at worst (see: Mike DuBose, Mike Price). Worst of all, the school was losing games to hated in-state rival Auburn, at one point dropping six in a row to the Tigers.

The creation of the Crimson Tide Foundation in 2005 embodied Witt and the boosters’ complete commitment to football. A 501(c)(3) non-profit, the Crimson Tide Foundation’s paperwork listed Paul Bryant, Jr. as its Chairman, and under its “exempt purpose” section stated that that the Foundation “… provides a channel through which gifts are solicited for the University of Alabama’s intercollegiate athletics program, including facilities, scholarships, and other areas of support.”

Using a nonprofit to channel a university athletics program’s finances is common in college athletics. A search of Guidestar’s nonprofit database pulls up nine programs in the SEC alone that filed the Form 990 that nonprofits usually send to the IRS yearly. Auburn, Ole Miss, Florida, Georgia, Mississippi State, and South Carolina all submitted forms for 2017. LSU, Texas A&M, and Arkansas all at least filed in 2016. There are archives showing basic financial statements going back to most of these organizations’s founding, sent in dutifully to the feds each year by administrators.

The University of Alabama’s charitable arm, the Crimson Tide Foundation, has one 990 on record: Filed in 2005, it lists the aforementioned officers, purpose, and basic information on finances, and an Astra SP — an upgrade from the Cessna the program had been using to make the rounds.

The jet would end up being a huge tool in Alabama’s endless football recruiting tours, but even that disclosure was enough for the program to give up reporting altogether. Since 2005, the Crimson Tide Foundation — still claiming 501(c)(3) non-profit status — has claimed it is exempt from filing those pesky 990s.

Instead, the Foundation’s numbers are included annually in the University’s financial reports. In their own words, the Crimson Tide Foundation is a “blended unit.” Translated: The Crimson Tide Foundation is a private organization that works under the umbrella of the very much public University of Alabama. The university includes some numbers about the program in that report, and the university also files required basic information about the program with the NCAA.

But overall, compared to other athletics programs in its conference alone — some of which produce their own 40-page annual audited summaries like small companies would — Alabama operates with a lower degree of transparency and a different reporting system than other schools do.  [Emphasis added.]

The unity of purpose there is striking.  Unity of purpose is something that was sadly lacking in Richt’s final seasons in Athens.  That’s all in the past, though.

McGarity said at the time of the Smart hire that the administration was looking for guidance from its new head coach as to where the program needed to head in order to succeed at a higher level.  Kirby brought the road map from Tuscaloosa.  Now it’s just a matter of herding the big pockets onto the bus.

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Filed under Alabama, Georgia Football

If at first you don’t succeed…

When last we heard from Southern Mississippi head coach Jay Hopson, it was in the form of an impassioned defense of why Jesus wanted him to hire Art Briles.  This was after saner heads had prevailed, so you may wonder why Hopson had chosen this particular hill to die on.

Well, it turns out he’s been on that hill before.

A new report by The Athletic brings into question Southern Miss football coach Jay Hopson’s track record of giving second chances to both players and coaches with troubled pasts.

Thursday’s report comes a day after Hopson was denied the opportunity by USM administration to hire former Baylor coach Art Briles, who has been out of a college coaching job since he was fired by Baylor in May of 2016 amid a probe into allegations of sexual assault by his players.

The Athletic’s report is centered around Charles West, a junior college football player who was previously accused of raping two women at knife-point in separate incidents in 2015.

The Athletic cites two unidentified sources saying that the USM football program signed West in January and Hopson did not inform athletic department officials of previous charges against the player. The accusations were also not included on his admissions application. According to the report, West planned to enroll last month for the spring semester.

USM officials were not aware of the accusations against West until an athletic department employee came across a Dallas Morning News article on the rape allegations, according to The Athletic. He is not a student at the school.

A real peach, this guy is.  Nothing like doubling down; after all, it’s not as if the school did much the first time around.  I wonder what’s next.  Too bad Sandusky’s still in prison, I guess.

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Filed under Crime and Punishment, General Idiocy